Love it or Leave it; How do we increase job satisfaction?

“…for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” -Steve Jobs

You’re probably here because you’re considering quitting your job. Maybe the thought has merely skittered through your mind or maybe it’s rampaging. It’s also possible that quitting your job isn’t something you’ve entertained yet. Regardless of where you are on this spectrum, deeply contemplating why we choose and stay at the job we have, how to navigate the challenges there, and what’s important to us in the work arena of our lives can have a big impact on our well-being (once we align with those realizations, of course!)

The truth is that quitting may in fact be the best course of action. But it’s really difficult to tell. Because it’s so hard to know, for sure, that quitting is the answer to our issues, we can wind up subjecting ourselves to unhealthy circumstances far longer than necessary.

The following pages are designed to help you make that challenging call. We’ll examine the issue from the angle of purpose by paying special attention to how purpose plays a role in our work and in the larger context of our lives.

As a subsection of Purpose, these pages will help you:

  • Learn about why we’re so unsatisfied at our jobs.
  • Understand how to redistribute the needs we expect our jobs to meet.
  • Assess what isn’t working and why.
  • Find ways to shift within your current situation to better align with what you want.
  • And if necessary, help you thoughtfully exit and plot the next course.

This particular page serves as an introduction to the subsection and explores why, as a culture, so many of us are unsatisfied at work these days:

  • The influence of modern cultural dialogue on our understanding of what our jobs should be
  • How our expectations affect to our satisfaction at work and three main causes of modern dissatisfaction
  • An appeal for careful consideration regarding what you want from work before you choose to quit

Ultimately, “Should You Quit?” argues for (and guides you through) careful deliberation that will enable you to increase your satisfaction and fulfillment at work now and in the future.

Here’s the section outline:

  1. Assess What Isn’t Working and Why: The Job Satisfaction Wheel
  2. Refine What Your Job Is For
  3. Address The Current Situation
  4. Ok, It’s Time To Quit and Transition

Should You Quit Your Job The Job Satisfaction Wheel Refine What Your Job Is For Address Your Current Situation Quit & Transition

In the wake of the COVID 19 Pandemic a term coined by organizational psychologist Anthony Klotz rose to the forefront of popular dialogue to capture the phenomenon of an unprecedented number of workers leaving their jobs: The Great Resignation. While there seemed to be similar trends in European nations, the Great Resignation was primarily a US occurrence, with a record-breaking number of 47.8 million workers quitting by the end of 2021 according the the US

Department of Labor (Statistica 2022) (SHRM 2022).

Various articles (1, 2, 3, 4) on the subject postulate that the high numbers were due to several factors:

  • People who would have contributed to the normal statistical evaluation of quits in a year chose not to quit during the pandemic due to fear of insecurity and are now making their moves as things settle down.
  • Several folks experienced an increase in burnout during the pandemic while demands at work increased due to the shifting economy (and the line between work and home dissolved for new remote workers).
  • And most importantly, people had time and motivation to contemplate how they wanted to live their lives and what was meaningful to them during the pandemic. After re-examining their priorities in the face of international disaster, many people have decided that what they’ve been doing with their time wasn’t worth it.

But what makes a job worth it? What makes it meaningful?

Take the quiz to suss out how you’re feeling at work.

‘Worth it’ and ‘meaningful’ may or may not overlap as the key to job satisfaction for any given individual. People in these working situations may think their jobs are worth it:

Someone who studied sign-language and works with deaf adults with disabilities, and uses their sign language skills to be an intermediary with other staff.

Someone who works as a bartender to have a flexible schedule and make decent cash in order to fund and allow space for personal creative projects.

Housekeepers in a hospital who view their work as contributing to wellbeing and healing of patients and to the overall mission of the hospital.

Someone who has chosen to be an administrative assistant at a company with a great benefits package because they value security, enjoy being helpful, and are skilled with people.

The above examples illustrate a handful of different approaches to satisfying work.

You do not need purpose at work for your job to be worthwhile
Sure, the meaningfulness of our work is clearly the most direct path to job satisfaction. Unfortunately, operating solely on this wisdom misses several pieces of the puzzle. You do not need to live your purpose(s) through your livelihood in order for your job to be worthwhile. It’s partially a matter of understanding the function our job plays in the overall schematic of our lives and partially making sure some fundamental qualities of work are accounted for (which will be explained in Refine what your job is for, below).

Address the inner and the outer to increase satisfaction
Jonathan Fields, founder of The Good Life Project podcast, laments the potential fallout of The Great Resignation in his recent book, “Sparked: Discover Your Unique Imprint for Work that Makes You Come Alive.” He worries about masses of people bypassing necessary internal changes by going straight for external ones (like quitting their jobs), and thus setting themselves up for future failure. Fields encourages his audience to make changes today – at their current jobs – so they can take that wisdom with them, rather than encountering the same challenging dynamics with their co-workers, boss, burnout and role issues a few years later at a different job.

You may not have to quit your job
When we’re unsatisfied at work, many of us easily understand that it’s time to change something. But does the entire job need to be that change? Maybe, but quite possibly not. Rather than jumping ship (often the only course of action that looks like it could salvage the situation) it may be time to sit down and get a fresh look at the landscape of work and purpose in your life all together. Understanding the expectations we have for our jobs to be perfect vehicles for fulfillment, joy, mastery, prosperity, and recognition, and how such expectations can hold us back, sheds fresh light on how to re-organize our approach to a fulfilling life. One’s job is only part of the recipe.

The pursuit of perfection may be messing you up
The ambition and pressure of landing the dream career that checks all of our boxes can be just as harmful and unrealistic as expecting our significant other to be perfect in every conceivable way.  While certainly not impossible (and absolutely worth striving for) the pursuit of a singular perfect package in our careers (and likewise our relationships) may leave us perpetually unsatisfied, unmoored, and unwilling to work with what is before us. There are a million diverse ways to check all of our boxes. Rather than forcing a square peg into a round hole or even trading pegs until we find the perfect fit, one can build tailored holes for the pegs we currently have to match with.

Before quitting your job, there are a few steps you can take that will help you gain insight and avoid hopping right back into a similar situation down the road. Learning what needs you want your job to meet in your life and doing adjustment work within your current role will clarify what is possible and save you from a possibly irreversible (likely impulsive) disruption.

After harvesting with intention from where you currently are and making the adjustments you can, it may still prove imperative to move on, but at that point you’ll do so armed with wisdom that will prevent you ending up in a similarly untenable situation.

We might be unsatisfied at work because our expectations are sky high

  • Michael Jordan was talented but not perfect; he practiced relentlessly for over a year to get the perfect jump shot. His mindset of determination and constant learning lead him to the NBA.
  • Tyler Perry survived a tragic youth and went broke pursuing his dream of producing and acting. After several years of sleeping in his car and working odd jobs, one of his shows was finally successful and launched his career as a director, producer, actor, and writer.
  • Oprah Winfrey also survived a troubled and traumatic childhood and persistently pursued her ambition to work in television. She hit her stride after becoming a news anchor and over several years her career blossomed to one of epic success.

We’re taught we can be anything we want to be if we just work hard enough, and as kids we often dream of the epic success stories and glamorous careers we hear of famous people achieving. Ironically, recent studies indicate that only 10% of people even end up in the dream jobs they desired as kids (Tollfreefowarding 2018).

In addition to the basic allure of doing something we enjoy for work, our meritocratic culture has embedded in us the notion that we deserve what we get in this life and the results of our efforts are evidence of self worth. Both of these ideas contribute to (an occasionally excessive) striving for the absolute best (or personal ideal) job that will frame and support our vision of the perfect life. Aside from the fact that we can forget to examine if our ideal vision of life is our own, many of us are working ourselves to the bone in pursuit of our vision. Millennials in particular (as Anne Helen Peterson argues in her viral article about burnout) were culturally groomed to be ambitious efficiency machines, optimizing every part of their lives and burning out in the process.

We operate as if there is a lot at stake with our jobs: not only our security, but our self-worth and our best chance at meaning and fulfillment.

None of this is to suggest we shouldn’t have dreams of a job that checks all the boxes. Not only can jobs be a good source for security, self-worth, and fulfillment, but it is at least possible to have the job and lifestyle that you want. An optimistic perspective increases your odds of making such goals a reality. At the same time, grounding our optimism by understanding and refining what we want streamlines our efforts and makes them more effective.

It is imperative that we dissect our general job malaise and familiarize ourselves with typical roadblocks if we desire to cultivate fulfillment and satisfaction.

It’s a nuanced debacle. Spelled out, many of the reasons we’re unsatisfied with our jobs come down to expectations and circumstance:

  1. We’re under a lot of pressure to find the ‘Perfect Job.’
    …And the standards for such a position are ever-evolving. By crowding our expectations with metrics that don’t have a significant impact on satisfaction, we water down our chances of satisfaction. We end up with a sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) that makes it challenging to be happy anywhere.
  2. We’re also overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options. 
    …And many of us don’t get adequate career guidance. We end up suffering from choice paralysis.
  3. We’re taught to tie our identities to our job titles. 
    …Making them a primary source of our intrinsic value.

Do you see these elements affecting your job satisfaction? They may do so more (and in more indirect ways) than you realize. Once we’ve become acquainted with the context of our dissatisfaction, we are more empowered to take action. Follow along to read about each of these three topics.

1. The pressure of the ‘Perfect Job’ may render nothing good enough

“Youngsters are told, “Think big. Anything is possible.” I would never go that strong. I want them to think positively, but when you think big you often start thinking too big, and I believe that can be very dangerous. Wanting an unattainable goal will eventually produce a feeling of “What’s the use?” That feeling can carry over into other areas. That is bad… We should keep our dreams within the realm of possibility— difficult but possible—and make every effort to achieve them.” John Wooden, American Basketball Player and Coach

What’s your definition of the Perfect Job?

  • An easy job that pays well
  • A job that pays the bills but doesn’t require long hours
  • A job where I get to do something I love
  • A prestigious job that I’m good at
  • A job that directly impacts people positively
  • A job with great coworkers, managers, and community
  • A job where I’m the boss and have control

Any of these? All of these?

We hope for and often expect a job to fulfill a massive checklist of ideals:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery/Competence
  • Meaning
  • Self-efficacy
  • Security
  • Connection/Belonging
  • Growth and learning
  • Prosperity
  • Identity
  • Passion
  • Enjoyment
  • Purpose
  • Belonging
  • Impact
  • Engagement
  • Work/Life Balance
  • Lifestyle Fit

Let’s rewind for a second to the basics: a job is fundamentally work that we get paid to do. How did it expand to be expected to serve so many diverse functions? For one, work has not only become a moral task in many Western cultures, it also takes up roughly half (or more) of our waking hours. We spend a lot of time at work and our industriousness (apparently) says something about our character. So it better be good, right?!

Well, Roman Krznaric, author and one of the founders of The School of Life, explains that having a fulfilling job is a relatively new idea in an article for Greater Good Berkeley:

“The idea of fulfilling work—a job that reflects our passions, talents, and values—is a modern invention. Open Dr. Johnson’s celebrated Dictionary, published in 1755, and the word “fulfillment” doesn’t even appear.”

Our perspective is likely distorted

Today we’re exposed to stories of the overnight success story, the entrepreneur who gave 150% until the universe transpired in their favor, the glamorous lives of celebrities, and even our friends on social media sharing curated posts that highlight the most magical elements of their lives. This imbalanced onslaught of fairytales skews our perception. Humans are psychologically biased to deduce that the frequency that we witness an event or thing reflects its actual prevalence, when really the stories we see and hear most are biased towards particular subject matter. Seeing that so many people have ‘got it all,’ we can end up holding ourselves to standards based on a distortion.

One can hold this standard in mind while critically assessing the challenges involved in making it a reality, thus empowering ourselves.

These folks’ expectations impact their rate of success

You can imagine the musician entrepreneur who has been inspired by the success of other musicians on social media platforms and thus decides marketing themselves via YouTube and Instagram is the ideal way to buttress their career. Before assuming the task will be a cinch and diving in, they do research regarding effective marketing for their industry and begin the arduous process of learning a whole new skill-set and managing their expectations over time. Because the musician learned what was realistic to expect, they were more patient and resilient in the face of setbacks and more likely to persevere towards eventual success.

On the other hand, it’s also easy to imagine the reverse of the musician. Bring to mind someone who has decided they would like to become an actor. Perhaps based on the stories they’ve heard they recognize that it can take a while to make it, but they simultaneously believe in the overnight success story. If they don’t find success right away, they’re more likely to give up on the effort early because they expected it to be easier.

How to Love Your Work
This 5.5 minute video from The School of Life discusses how the need to prove ourselves through our professions interferes with our ability to choose a job we may actually enjoy. It offers that one reason people compulsively accomplish things may be to make up for a deficit of love and to prove that they are worthy to others.

Without the context of the real landscape before us, our expectations can easily become unrealistic and limit our potential for satisfaction.

So what is realistic, anyway?

The landscape doesn’t often mirror social media’s depiction that a hard work ethic and a little bit of luck will land us the job of our dreams. Research, planning, careful direction plotting, and more are part of creating more likely success. What is the real possibility of getting all the boxes checked for the average person?

You want a job you’re passionate about?
According to 80,000 Hours, an organization dedicated to aiding people in taking on impactful careers, the jobs available in industries for what most people are conventionally passionate about are mismatched. Based on a survey from University of Montreal and Canadian Census Data (reflected in the chart from 80,000 hours below), they concluded that most folks are passionate about creative or sport-related endeavors and that there are not nearly enough occupations to satisfy them all if passion is their priority.

The likelihood of getting a job you’re passionate about may come down to the niche quality of your interests, where you live, and your education level. Statistica compiled data to show what industries in the US and globally have the most availability of positions in 2020:

The below chart from Flowing Data offers an interesting look at the distribution of job types since the 1950s, showing that some industries (namely production and farming) have shrunk while industries like education and healthcare practitioners have moderately grown.

Hold up- you may want to check out this page. Our desires are influenced by our assumptions, and it’s possible we’re not aware of how our beliefs about purpose impact what we want from our jobs. Each of the myths on this page may be affecting what you think you want from work. It’s worth investigating.

You want a job that pays really well?

Well, “really well” is relative, but studies indicate that for the individual satiation occurs at $95,000 and the benefits to emotional well-being begin to taper off globally on average with a salary of $60k-$75k (Jebb et al 2018). (Of course, this also varies by location. In the US, you can find data on individual states here).

Based on data from the US Department of Labor, only 23% of jobs surveyed in their 2020 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates garnered over $70k per year.

You want a job that pays well but doesn’t take up all your time?

Part time work is considered anything less than 35 hours per week. According to the US Department of Labor, the biggest industry this is possible in is healthcare.  The typical dental hygienist can make $37 per hour working part time and a registered nurse $38, while someone teaching post-secondary education can earn about $23.

30 Remote Jobs Paying as Much or a Lot More Than the Average Salary

This article from writer Thomas Oppong lists out thirty modern remote jobs that are flexible and pay as much as the average salary. Here are a few examples:

  • Content Writer
  • Software Engineer
  • Product Designer
  • Bookkeeper
  • Counselor
  • Translator

In conclusion, finding a job that checks all the boxes can be a tough task; 

…and we’ve been taught it is a matter of perseverance or luck (or both!). This makes it simultaneously our responsibility but within the hands of fate–a contradiction that renders it challenging to be happy with our situation.

Our ancestors didn’t take the same responsibility for their life circumstances as we do; they often blamed the gods for unfortunate events. Interestingly enough, explaining negative events as beyond our control is healthier for our emotional well-being than blaming ourselves; unfortunately, it seems more common for modern people to do just that. The alternative is to choose to learn from such events and become empowered by them without blaming ourselves. No wonder we aren’t satisfied when we’re blaming ourselves for something we often believe we can’t influence!

Even if you check a few boxes, there are always more that could be checked. We end up with crippling (or at least mildly debilitating) FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) that poisons our ability to see what IS working in our jobs. It renders no job good enough.

There are two answers to tackling the conundrum of impossible standards in the Perfect Job; one is simple and the other a bit more complex.

  1. The simple answer: Prioritize meaning in your work. It can make the most significant impact on your satisfaction. This might involve making the job you currently have better or getting a different job. See Don’t quit… yet.
  2. The more complex answer: Learn how to prioritize checking certain boxes at your job and checking the rest elsewhere. This could be a matter of acknowledging and getting on board with the boxes your job already checks. See Refine what your job is for, and Don’t quit…yet.

By doing either of the above you’ll empower yourself to accept a job as good enough, or quite possibly empower yourself to cultivate something that meets or exceeds your expectations. If you keep scrolling you’ll arrive at those exercises in due time, but feel free to skip to them and learn away!

2. We probably have job choice paralysis; Plus the workplace is in constant flux

The second influence on our job dissatisfaction has to do with having so many options.

The classic example of choice paralysis is trying to select a product at a grocery store. Imagine yourself attempting to select a simple jar of peanut butter. You have a ridiculous amount of options to compare along a wide range of variables. Do you want it to be organic, sugar free, cheap, totally natural? What about an alternative nut butter if you have a sensitivity or are concerned about environmental impact? What if you care about the ethics of the company producing the product? How much do you need, anyway?

Faced with so many options, we can end up unhappy with our final choice. Very rarely does a single jar of peanut butter perfectly maximize our list of important variables. Maybe you got the most affordable organic jar, but it tastes mediocre and has more sugar than you like.

There are too many options

We face a similar choice paralysis with our jobs. We’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options we face. lists 12,000 different types of jobs to choose from (keeping in mind, of course, that the jobs will fall unevenly into 16 career clusters, as reflected in the charts above. Sectors like tech or healthcare may have a disproportionate amount of the career variety.)

Jobs are changing fast

And the number of career options available to us continues to expand as history lurches forward and technology evolves at an exponential rate. The World Economic Forum predicts that 65% of jobs current highschoolers will end up having don’t even exist yet! Additionally, common jobs like food preparation and driving are predicted to decline significantly by 2050 due to automation (Nedelkoska & Quintini 2018).

Aside from the jobs themselves, the nature of how we work is also shifting, which influences our lifestyles. Visual Capitalist, a publisher of data driven visuals, created an infographic showing that the pandemic pushed a 12% increase in jobs listing ‘remote work’ as part of their package in 2021.

One can commonly dredge up predictions of greater flexibility, more meaning, and a higher prioritization of growth and training as essential to what we demand of our jobs in the future as well. Places like Gumroad (a platform for freelance creators) are popping up, making it possible for individuals to have more control over how they work and promoting flexibility and freedom over money.  Changes like these reflect a rearrangement of our values. When Gumroad eliminated location-based pay, one employee celebrated the possibilities working there had opened for them:

Almost nobody is seeing this trend as an opportunity to work less, rather than to earn more.

We need to understand our priorities

Clarifying and reprioritizing what we value in our work is the key to not only coping with but actively addressing the nigh constant onslaught of change, expanding opportunities, and critical choices that are omnipresent in the post-pandemic career landscape. While many writers suggest focusing on honing personal qualities like independence, adaptability, and specialization, it is essential to clarify our criteria for what’s important in order to empower ourselves to make choices that will bring us satisfaction, enjoyment, and even fulfillment.

One part of this is Refining what your job is for.

The other is Clarifying your Values, Interests, and Skills.

By refining and clarifying you will be able to narrow down things that are more suited to you personally. Click the above links to access exercises and more information on these ideas. (You can also keep reading and stumble upon the exercises as they are specifically relevant to the flow of content!)

Infographics on the Changing Landscape of Work

**Click to see the full version of each.

3. We Tie Our Identities and Self-Worth to Our Jobs

“Americans tend to valorize being driven and ambitious, so letting work take over virtually every moment of your life is concerningly easy. I know many people who talk of almost nothing besides their work; who are saying, essentially, “I am my job.” […] Love and fun are sacrificed for another day of work, in search of a positive internal answer to the question “Am I successful yet?” The great irony is that by trying to be special, we end up reducing ourselves to a single quality, and turning ourselves into cogs in a machine of our own making. […] You are not your job, and I am not mine.” – Arthur Brooks in The Atlantic

The third challenge we face with work satisfaction hinges on the pressure we feel to make it define us.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s incredibly common to ask kids what they want to be someday, implying that their future career is essential to their identity. Once we’re adults the primary question upon first encountering someone becomes “What do you do?” The fact that these questions are so prevalent is an indication of what modern society values: your work.

An article from The School of Life claims that the world became modern when people stopped asking where you were from and began asking what you did. In Medieval times surnames switched from villages to professions: Smith, Brewer, and Fisher are only a few. What became important to society was how you contributed to it in the form of labor.

Contribution in this way has become a moral good. In a spirited New York Times op-ed article adapted from his latest book about the changing world of work and its place in society, John Malesic offers:

“As it is, work sits at the heart of Americans’ vision of human flourishing. It’s much more than how we earn a living. It’s how we earn dignity: the right to count in society and enjoy its benefits. It’s how we prove our moral character. And it’s where we seek meaning and purpose, which many of us interpret in spiritual terms.

Political, religious and business leaders have promoted this vision for centuries, from Capt. John Smith’s decree that slackers would be banished from the Jamestown settlement to Silicon Valley gurus’ touting work as a transcendent activity. Work is our highest good; “do your job,” our supreme moral mandate.”

And it’s clearly commonplace to identify with our jobs. One survey of 2,000 millennials showed that 68% of participants identified with their jobs. While a strong sense of identity is healthy and motivating, throwing it all into our work can have its drawbacks:

  • When the core of our identity is tied to our job, failures and challenges become much more personal and can feel more damaging because our self-worth is at stake.
    Quoted in a Harvard Business Review article, Dr. Paul Rosenfield, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University explained that, “Establishing your identity through work alone can restrict your sense of self, and make you vulnerable to depression, loss of self-worth, and loss of purpose when the work is threatened.”
  • We can become more at risk for burnout because we feel we must always do more.
  • Our lives can become one-dimensional; when we put the vast majority of our time and effort into our work, relationships and engagements outside of our jobs can suffer.

Arthur Brooks, author and columnist for The Atlantic, suggests asking yourself a few questions to determine if you’re at risk for over-identifying with your job:

  • Is your job the biggest part of your identity? Is it the way you introduce yourself, or even understand yourself?
  • Do you find yourself sacrificing love relationships for work? Have you forgone romance, friendship, or starting a family because of your career?
  • Do you have trouble imagining being happy if you were to lose your job or career? Does the idea of losing it feel a little like death to you?

He goes on to say, “If you answered affirmatively to any or all of these, recognize that you will never be satisfied as long as you objectify yourself. Your career or job should be an extension of you, not vice versa.” (The entire article is excellent, by the way.)

There are a wide range of identities we can inhabit beyond those provided by our jobs. Dispersing our identity over multiple facets of our lives can be advantageous in that it makes us more resilient (our self-worth not being contingent on our professional success) and it also enriches our experience by diversifying it. Understanding how our job fits into our overall lives can help mitigate the inclination to make it our all.

Try This

To help you de-identify with your job, try the following:

  • Figure out what is important to you.
  • Do a Time Audit and an Energy Audit to assess where your time and energy goes, then assess if it reflects what you think you care about.
  • Do a Life Areas Satisfaction Chart to determine what areas need some more attention.
    • Also check out the 1 minute, 5 minute, and 25 minute versions of the assessment center to suss out what aspects of your life you can learn to flex more.

Other relevant topics on this site:

  • Your Storied Life: Identity – Where does your sense of self come from? What are the beliefs you perpetuate about who you are and how do those beliefs affect your life? Visit this section to find out.
  • Busyness – Are you too busy? Do you suffer from burnout? Check out this section to learn about how and why this happens, as well as ways to remedy the situation.
  • Multipotentialism – Ever feel like you want to do too many things? Do you feel boxed in by the idea of having one specialty or a single career? Well don’t fret. There is a way to embrace the multifaceted diamond of a generalist that you are.

Don’t Quit…Yet

“Happiness at work comes from the inside out. It’s something we create for ourselves. A lot of people will lose or leave a job and go somewhere else and find that they’re just as unhappy.”Annie Mckee, How To Be Happy At Work

Before you quit, let’s think about it.

Not to imply that you haven’t been thinking about it- clearly you’ve been considering the implications of such a change or you wouldn’t be here. You probably want to make a well-informed decision that puts you in the best place possible. This section is all about what to consider before you commit to the leap- or commit to staying. There are likely some signs telling you it’s time to change and culture pressuring you to follow the fantasy career narrative. Read on to be walked through the elements to come.

Signs you need to make a change

In his book, “Wellth,” Jason Wachob suggests six signs that you’re overwhelmed at work and need to make a change. Do any of them apply to you?

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Dreading going to work
  • Daydreaming while at work
  • Resent your boss or coworkers
  • Fantasizing about other jobs
  • Regularly unhappy

If you’re experiencing any of those symptoms, it’s probably time to address them. Even if your symptoms are less severe, it is still probably time to address them.

Our job malaise manifests along a range of urgency. It may feel like needing to scratch an annoying itch or it could feel like critical desperation. We may react by dismissing or ignoring the itch, or letting the more urgent feelings consume us. It’s not difficult to go from “I’m not happy right now,” to worrying about a lifetime of boredom, drudgery, burnout, or waste. Ignoring the issue, catastrophizing, or impulsively quitting and seeking a new job may not be the most helpful paths forward.

We romanticize jumping ship

In the movie “The Truman Show,” Truman, played by Jim Carrey, spends his entire life in ignorance of the fact that he is the star of a made-up television program. *Spoiler Alert: When he discovers that his life is a fabrication he begins to yearn for the unknown. The scene below depicts the climax of the story where he chooses to leave the set of his life and step out into the world of possibility.

Many of us can feel as if we’re on a similar precipice to Truman when faced with job dissatisfaction. We believe the answer lies in the romantic shot in the dark characterized by the overnight-success entrepreneur archetype: quit and risk everything on pursuing your dream. Hope lies in the wild frontier of possibility.

Is popular culture guiding your decision to quit?

Especially post-pandemic, more and more people (roughly 41% of people globally) were seriously considering leaving their jobs, having had time to incubate considerations for how they wanted to live their lives during lock-down. This reconsideration and re-prioritization of values is a wonderfully positive outcome of the pandemic, empowering people to adjust their lives by making more time for what they care about. However, some are at risk of acting rashly in response to their epiphanies after marinating in a social dialogue that glorifies the leap of faith.

Taunted by the overnight success story, we may have distorted confidence in our ability to swim to paradise (or even safety) once we jump ship. The following video from MindCafe, a channel that focuses on well-being, urges the audience to adopt a more thoughtful approach to transitioning work that is grounded in a practical, long-term vision.

As offered in the video, taking small steps consistently in order to build up successful habits can lay the groundwork for the dream job you’re after and is more likely to lead to success than gambling on the unknown and unexamined.

So don’t quit…yet, anyway.

Instead of quitting, choose to transition.

If you’re dissatisfied at work, some form of change is called for. While quitting may be the most obvious change to enact, it may not be the most effective for getting what you truly want.

Transitioning may involve:

  • Leaving your current job, or not.
  • Making changes at your current workplace.
  • Investing more time and energy in other facets of your life.
  • A shift of perspective.
  • All of the above.

Let it be said, though- quitting may be precisely what you need to do.

Author Annie Duke wrote a whole book on how to know when to quit, and she offers sage wisdom of the process in an interview with the New York Times:

“Just as the decision to start something is made under conditions of uncertainty, so is the decision to quit. Which means that at the moment that you quit, if you do it at the right time, you’re not going to be 100 percent certain that you have to. And we’re really good at coming up with reasons why it’s worth it to continue.”

No one wants you to stay too long in a toxic situation. However, quitting without thorough deliberation and experimentation can end up leaving a lot of insight, growth, and opportunities for joy and flourishing untouched on the table. Luckily this section will guide you along the journey to all the insight you need to make an informed decision.

The Next Few Pages

Whether your situation is like Truman’s and you’re trapped and desperate for change, you simply have an itch that there is something more, or you’re somewhere in between, the journey starts with pinpointing what is missing the mark at work. After that you can figure out what you want work to be for, adjust as much as possible within your current situation, and/or  finally (if necessary) transition to a new job altogether.

The next few pages, subpages of this one, cover the following topics. They’re presented in an order that builds insight on itself as you reflect and apply your realizations, but you do not have to follow it in a chronological fashion. You could be at any stage in the journey and various parts of this section may or may not be relevant to your experience and desires. Feel free to hop around. There is a gray box at the start of each section that explains a bit more how the information can be applied and benefit you.

  1. Assess what isn’t working and why: The Job Satisfaction Wheel
  2. Refine what your job is for
  3. Address the current situation
  4. Ok, it’s time to quit and transition

Should You Quit Your Job The Job Satisfaction Wheel Refine What Your Job Is For Address Your Current Situation Quit & Transition

Reasons People Quit Their Jobs

You’ll find a lot of studies and collections of statistics out there detailing why people quit their jobs. Not all of them agree on the order of the reasons, but they tend to include the same things:

  • Lack of growth opportunities
  • Lack of recognition
  • Compensation
  • Relationships with management
  • Lack of meaningful work

Purpose The Gist of Purpose Parts of Purpose Purpose Fundamentals Purpose in Context Purpose as your Work Should You Quit Your Job Purpose Myths Hindrances to Purpose Benefits of Purpose Passion The Purpose Journey Clarify your Purpose Align with your Purpose Support your Purpose Purpose Practice and Exercises Purpose Resources